“When I was a kid, I always wondered how the German people in World War II allowed that killing in their society to go on, and it’s because they simply didn’t do anything about it. I have the ability today to try and stop the slaughter of innocent human beings, therefore I must do it.”
Jim Graham, executive director for Texas Right to Life, told us the story and mission that drives Texas’ oldest and largest statewide pro-life organization.
“My understanding of pro-life has always been more philosophical, an understanding of justice,” Graham said. “The right to life is the first and foremost right, and because it is under attack and because millions are dying, I must defend it, and I must do something.”
Graham said he first became active in the fight to protect babies because of his father Dr. Joseph Graham, a professor at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. His father got involved because of a simple invitation from a university student.
“My dad was actually recruited by a student who asked him to get involved in the pro-life movement, to help with their pro-life club,” Graham said. “He eventually was on the board of National Right to Life, and he volunteered to have the 1994 national convention in Houston, even though he had never helped to organize it. He asked me to go to the office and begin working on the national convention, and that was my beginning.”
Jim Graham on the grounds of the Texas Capitol in Austin. Photo by Texas Right to Life
Graham said the story of Texas Right to Life organization itself was also a generational one, where Texans throughout the past several decades decided to simply do something here at home to try and stop the greatest human rights violation in history.
“It began 47 years ago legally, was incorporated in 1972, but some people had been gathering for years before that because abortion had already been legalized in California and New York,” Graham said. “Those who gathered might go to Austin to lobby the legislature, but most would give presentations at churches or go on local radio talk shows to talk about it. Occasionally there were even debates; my dad used to debate Planned Parenthood on university campuses.”
“Many of those activists got together and started the organization and a larger pro-life movement,” he continued. “One of the founders, Houstonian Patti Ruth Linbeck, helped establish Houston Right to Life, Texas Right to Life, and National Right to Life.”
Photo by Texas Right to Life
Graham said the fight over the years has been relentless; he’s learned the reality of the power struggle and corruption happening in state halls of government within both political parties around the life issue. He’s also learned how it takes partnerships and specific strategies to win victories to protect innocent babies.
“I must fight regardless of the outcome,” Graham said. “There’s so much confusion around the world right now, on every issue. The more leaders I talk to, the more I realize that we are in a worldwide civil war that’s being fought along moral lines.”
Photo by Texas Right to Life
Graham concluded as he began, saying that the most important thing is to simply do something about the horror of abortion. Otherwise, we’re no different than those in World War II who simply watched the Holocaust unfold right in front of them.
“The problem in the world really isn’t that there aren’t enough Christians, it’s that Christians are complacent with the culture of death,” Graham said. “Christians have got to engage the culture. Very few people are actually called to be contemplatives and hermits on the sideline. Most people think, ‘Well, I’ll just say an extra prayer for you.’ But actually, we are called to be contemplative activists. Christians must engage the culture, and you must be spiritually prepared; otherwise, this war will tear you to pieces.”
And what can it look like to do something? Graham said it differs for everyone.
“Everyone has been made for this exact moment in time, and you have been given the skills, assets, and treasures that you have not for your own betterment, but to build the kingdom of God. And you have to discern what you’ve been given and to apply it in this battle. Everyone is called to be engaged and to start fighting.”